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The Dead Weather - Horehound

The Dead Weather, Horehound

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

AND now for Jack White’s next trick…. comes The Dead Weather; yet another side project for The White Stripes supremo, and another demonstration of his seemingly exhaustable talents.

Admittedly, White takes a back seat on this one. He plays plays drums, produces and splits lead vocals with Alison Mosshart (The Kills) while Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) plays guitar and Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs) plays bass. But is this latest super-group any good?

Yes and no is the answer. When they hook it up and get it right, they’re pretty darn exhilarating. When they don’t, however, they can be pretty awful.

The impetus for The Dead Weather came when Alison Mosshart’s band The Kills opened on a few US tour dates for The Raconteurs. Jack White was given doctor’s orders to take it easy on the vocals, so he invited Alison to sing a few songs onstage. Immediately recognizing the musical synergy, the trio devised a plot to record together during some down time in White’s own Third Man Recording Studio in Nashville.

White then enlisted the addition of erstwhile Raconteurs’ touring accomplice and Queens Of The Stone Age collaborator Dean Fertita. What was initially imagined as a one-off collaboration for a 7” single release turned into a full-length album once the quartet switched on the recording tape.

The result offers various shots of psych-rock guitar, distorted and submerged vocals, and retro nods to everyone from The Rolling Stones to Lalo Schifrin and company.

Tracks like current single Treat Me Like Your Mother really do catch fire, thanks to a brooding opening drum beat (from White himself), a flash of synth brilliance, and a shambolic collision of vocals from White and Mosshart that really do quicken the pulse and leave you thirsting for more.

I Cut Like A Buffalo, meanwhile, trades a throbbing central riff with church organ lurches and a rare lead vocal from White that is strangely reminiscent of The Stranglers. It’s volatile, edgy, dark and paranoid.

And So Far From Your Weapon oozes bluesy, roguish charm in a “we don’t give a f**k” kind of way that’s appealingly laidback from some of the more livewire moments.

Bone House, meanwhile, throbs to the pulse of a really vibrant drum loop, some Rage Against The Machine-style vocals and a striking guitar loop that has to rate among the most striking on the LP.

And then there’s the stark contrast offered by the funky guitar strut of 3 Birds, which sounds like it might be auditioning for a walk-on part in a David Holmes/Ocean’s 11 movie moment, or a Tarantino sweeping shot.

Alas, as good as such moments are, there are others that infuriate and may well leave you reaching for the skip button. No Hassle Night lacks the bluesy brilliance of So Far From Your Weapon and inspired, while Dylan cover New Poney begins like Exile On Main Street era Rolling Stones before losing itself completely within its blues-metal emphasis.

And then there’s Rocking Horse, which starts off with a cheeky little bassline romp, before exploding to life in a riot of noise from which it never really recovers. It’s a turn-off.

Fortunately, the good moments outweigh the bad, and album closer Will There Be Enough Water is a strong jumping off point with its laidback, broken blues and banjo. But where White’s previous super-group The Raconteurs pretty much slayed all before them, The Dead Weather may prove more of an acquired taste.

Thrilling in small doses, it doesn’t always add up to a satisfying whole.

Download picks: Treat Me Like Your Mother, Bone House, 3 Birds, Will There Be Enough Water

Track listing:

  1. 60 Feet Tall
  2. Hang You From the Heavens
  3. I Cut Like a Buffalo
  4. So Far From Your Weapon
  5. Treat Me Like Your Mother
  6. Rocking Horse
  7. New Pony
  8. Bone House
  9. 3 Birds
  10. No Hassle Night
  11. Will There Be Enough Water